Duterte says Marcos not likely to accept DILG post

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Defeated vice-presidential candidate and former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr is not likely to accept the post of interior secretary, which has been vacated after President Rodrigo Duterte fired Ismael Sueno.

Duterte said Marcos, who political observers say could be offered the post, will probably not want the position since it could affect his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

"No, I don't think so, he would abandon his appeal, eh mabitawan niya (he'll lose it). When you are appointed to a position, mawawala, wala eh (the appeal will not be valid), for intents and purposes," said Duterte during a chance interview on Tuesday, April 4, at Fort Bonifacio.

Marcos filed an electoral protest in June 2016 before the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). He accused Robredo and the Liberal Party (LP) of cheating in the May 2016 polls, which he lost by a slim margin. (READ: Robredo election lawyer: Poll fraud proven? Marcos camp 'hallucinating')

Duterte, asked last February if he would ever ask Marcos to head the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), said the former senator is "not interested" in the post.

Marcos is still prohibited from occupying a government position after his loss in the May 2016 elections, due to the one-year ban on appointing losing candidates.

But Marcos Jr is open to it?

Marcos' spokesperson and lawyer Vic Rodriguez would neither confirm nor deny that the President offered the post to the former senator. He only said Marcos would not refuse Duterte.

"Marcos has so much respect for President Duterte that he would rather not speculate nor second guess what his decision would be. However, if called upon to serve the Filipino people, who is [he] to say no to the President?" Rodriguez told Rappler in a text message Tuesday night.

He also clarified that should Marcos be appointed to a Cabinet post, it would not affect the pending election case before the SC as the "principle of abandonment" only applies to elective and not appointive positions.

The President made the remark about Marcos around the same time the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo said it found Sueno's dismissal "concerning" because it could be a prelude to Marcos' appointment. 

"It is definitely concerning that the removal of Secretary Sueno may be a prelude to the appointment of former Senator Bongbong Marcos as DILG Secretary, especially since it comes so close to the end of the election ban," vice presidential legal adviser Ibarra Gutierrez said in a statement on Tuesday.

Gutierrez pointed out that should the late dictator's son be appointed, it comes at a time the Duterte government is working to postpone this year's barangay elections and instead appoint barangay officials for the next 3 years. 

"Marcos as DILG Secretary can be ironically appropriate – why not another Marcos to preside over an attempt to suspend the right to vote, reinstall rule by Executive fiat, and maybe pave the way to authoritarianism?" he said. 

The Marcos camp hit back at Robredo for her office's statement.  

"President Duterte has again exhibited his zero tolerance for corruption. Robredo, instead of commending the action of Duterte, is all business as usual dragging BBM (Bongbong Marcos) yet again in her patented thoughtless political theories, assumption and conclusion meant to cover her lack of contribution to governance and nation building," Rodriguez said.

Scouting for replacement

Duterte said he has yet to pick a new interior secretary. "I'm still scouting for another talent," he told reporters.

The Office of the Executive Secretary said Duterte's appointment of an officer-in-charge to take over the DILG post is "expected to be announced soonest." (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte fired DILG chief Sueno)

Duterte has always been open about his close ties with the Marcoses. He struck a friendship with the former senator when they were both congressmen under the 11th Congress.

Duterte also admitted owing his victory in Ilocos Norte to Imee Marcos, the province's governor and older sister of Ferdinand Jr.

The President also ordered the hero's burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which took the country by surprise in November 2016. (READ: Duterte on Marcos burial: Let history judge, I followed law) – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.